Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Viver com menos: 10 coisas que não me fazem falta / Living with less: 10 things that I don't miss

O texto em português foi publicado na revista Papel no dia 2 de Maio e pode ser lido aqui.

and now in English

Living with less when you already own very little can certainly be a problem. But deciding to live with less when you have way more than enough could mean living a better life. This is what this text is about.
Below is a list of things which I don't miss in my life and that in addition, I believe their absence makes me happier. I am in no way suggesting that owning these things is negative, only sharing the fact that I don't own them and have found – in some cases with surprise - that their absence brought me additional well-being. Some of them have gradually disappeared along the years, sometimes by accident and never came back, although at some point in the past I have considered them to be essential. Others have never been a part of my life.
Microwave: I used to have one, but apart from the first couple of years, when I tried out some recipes, its use quickly resumed to heating water for coffee and soup bowls. More recently, after reading some scary research papers about the microwave effects over food, it became restricted to heating water – after all, the possible recombinations of one oxygen and two hydrogen molecules didn't seem that dangerous. Once it broke down, I felt relived. I gained a lot of extra space in the kitchen counter and I had one thing less to clean up.
Iphone, ipad, ipod: I have a tendency to get absorbed in my own thoughts and become oblivious of the world around me (I know...). This is why I don't like to carry too many things around with me. I'm afraid I'll lose them, drop them on the floor and get them broken, or (when traveling) being robbed. In addition, when I am outdoors, I like to focus on whatever I went out to do instead of being (even more) distracted, either with gadgets or anything else.
Watch: I've always owned one and was constantly looking at it, until the day I lost it. I've got used to living without it and although meanwhile I've found it (at the bottom of the picnic basket), I never wanted it back. I was left thinking that someone who takes a watch to a picnic probably needs to rethink his priorities... And I found out that a watch is something superfluous in this world where the time is everywhere: on the mobile phone, the car's dashboard, the radio, on the TV in every coffee shop corner, on the numerous electronic outdoor ads... you name it. In fact, these days what is really difficult is not knowing what time it is. A picnic can - and should - be one of those rare occasions.
Cable TV (or satellite or similar): we don't watch that much TV around here. There are so many other cool things to do... And if we look closely, when you have internet access, TV becomes a little redundant.
A capsule coffee machine: I love coffee but as long as it keeps working, I won't trade my old filter coffeemaker (which is about to complete 20 years) by anything else. I couldn't possibly replace it by something that would make me throw away a piece of aluminum for each coffee I drank. I know capsules can be recycled, but I firmly believe that we should first reduce the amount of garbage we produce, and only when we can't avoid producing it, should we think about recycling.
Electrical kettle: I may be wrong, but it doesn't seem practical to have another kitchen utensil spending energy, taking up space and needing to be cleaned just to heat water once in a while.
Bimby (or any other kitchen robot): I like cooking and I like teaching my kids how to cook so, as in the case of the kettle, I gladly trade an additional household appliance by extra space, energy savings and less things to clean up.
Dental braces: OK, this one was just a joke (and it doesn't count towards the list of 10), but have you noticed the huge number of people of all ages that suddenly started wearing braces? I haven't yet figured out whether this is just the result of an extremely successful orthodontic marketing campaign, or if it actually corresponds to a sudden and genuine discontent of the Portuguese about their dental alignments.
GPS: is there anything better than playing detective and finding out the way on our own? Getting lost and because of that finding the most wonderful place we didn't even dream was around the corner? Or asking directions to someone and getting to know better not just the place we are in, but the people that live in it as well?
Curtains and carpets: I used to have curtains when lived in a flat in town. But now, apart from a rooster that likes to perch on my window-sill, I have no curious neighbors and the views from the house are so lovely that it would be a crime to hide them with curtains. Besides, I would have additional things catching dust and needing to get washed and ironed. The floor, on the other hand, is wooded. Wood is warm and beautiful. Some carpets are nice too, but they also catch dust, dust mites, occasionally stains and... you guessed... they would need to get regularly washed. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against cleaning – I actually really like clean environments and maybe because of that, I prefer to eliminate from the beginning the need to dedicate more time than strictly necessary to cleaning up and use the surplus for more pleasurable activities.
A big amount of clothing: this is subjective, I know. I've never actually counted the number of clothes I own, but judging from some of my friends' wardrobes, I can say mine is quite modest. Not my merit, though. I am far from having a standard size, so I usually have trouble finding clothes that fit (they're usually either too short or too baggy) and on top of that, I don't really like shopping. Not everything is bad, though: apart from saving a lot of money, I rarely take more than 5 minutes to decide what to wear each morning – and believe it or not, this is a daily dilemma for many people.

Regardless of the personal circumstances of each of us, the consumption of non-essential goods is a matter of choice. It is possible to live with less and free up time and money for other things that we find more important – and these may not even be material possessions. But more important than this, and contrarily to what the consumerist society we live in tries to convince us every day, living with less doesn't necessarily mean failure. It can simply be an option and the starting point for a better life.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quanto custa o seu tempo? / How much is your time worth?*

"Quanto custa o seu tempo?" Pode ser lido em português aqui.

* This is the translation of a text I published in Portuguese this week in the online magazine Papel. As far as I have the time to do it, I'll try to translate my new texts as I write them, as well as some of those that have been previously published. The translation will not be perfect (I'm not a translator), but at least my blog readers who can't handle Portuguese will be able to read them too.
For most people, money is the main yardstick when it comes to assess someone's success. It's no wonder, since it can be exchanged for almost anything: a big house, a luxury car, long holidays at exotic places... But if it is true that money is incredibly valuable, it is also generally agreed that it is not the most important thing on earth. Family, friendship, health and so many others usually come first on opinion survey results.
And yet... when we look at our daily lives, we see that we usually do not behave in accordance to these priorities.
When we work, we trade the result of our labor – and the time we dedicate to achieve it – by money. We can make a simple calculation and divide our monthly income (or annual income, for those working on their own like me) by the number of hours spent working. This way, we get an approximate idea of how much one hour of our time is worth.
Why would we want to do this? For me, once the threshold of basic housing, feeding, health insurance, education and comfort is met, time becomes a more valuable asset than money. Unlike money, I can use extra time and spend it with my family or friends or take better care of my health – by exercising, walking or spending more time cooking my own meals, for instance. This is why I find it useful to know how much one hour of my time is worth. And I have got used to evaluate potential new jobs not just in terms of how much more extra money or professional satisfaction they could bring me, but also in function of how much time they will take away from me.
At a certain point, I started making a similar exercise when I go shopping for non-essential items. To my surprise, I found that in more than one occasion my initial decision to buy something ends up radically changing. I don't need new clothes, but when I go through a storefront and see the most lovely dress on sale for half the original price, I feel really tempted to bring it home with me. But then I make a quick mental calculation and conclude this dress will cost me an afternoon's worth of my time. Suddenly, it doesn't look like such a big bargain anymore... Would I rather spend another afternoon – possibly on a weekend - sitting by my PC wearing a lovely new dress, or jump into my old jeans and head out with the kids to play some football? Or, if the weather doesn't allow it, make a batch of delicious cookies and savor them in front of the fireplace while playing a board game or reading a book? I don't need to think twice. I come back home empty handed but with an empowering sense of freedom...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Correio / Post goodies

Acabei de receber o primeiro esboço da Troca de Esboços em que participei no mês passado e veio nada menos do que do próprio organizador da troca, Tom Serrati. Como podem ver, vai muito além de um simples esboço. Os edifícios estão desenhados em grande pormenor e a aplicação das cores é muito bonita. Trata-se de dois dos 17 edifícios que sobreviveram à destruição da Segunda Guerra Mundial... As minhas filhas gostaram imenso do envelope, enviado da Estação de Correios do Pai Natal e endereçado em nome delas, bem como do postal com renas escrito em português, para que o pudessem entender, e eu gostei muito do postal com fantásticas imagens  de auroras boreais - obrigada, Tom!
I've just received my first sketch from the Sketch Swap I entered last month and the first one to arrive was this lovely watercolour by Tom Serrati himself. For me, this goes well beyond a sketch and is closer to a finished piece of art. The buildings are pictured in an extremely fine detail and the colours are beautiful. According to Tom, these are two of the 17 buildings that were left in the town of Rovaniemi after WWII destruction... My kids loved the envelope sent from Santa Claus' Main Post Office and addressed to them both and the lovely reindeer's postcard written in Portuguese, so they could understand and I loved the amazing lights of the north postcard - thank you Tom!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Feliz / Happy

Um dos meus cartões (Sunflower Moving Announcement with cowgirl and wood fence Card - PID#1095264) foi escolhido pela equipa do Greeting Card Universe como Design do Dia, ficando em destaque na página internet do GCU durante 24 horas e sendo automaticamente registado no Concurso Mensal Design do Mês no Facebook.

I'm so happy! One of my cards (Sunflower Moving Announcement with cowgirl and wood fence Card - PID#1095264) has been chosen as today's Design of the Day by Greeting Card Universe staff, and will be featured on the GCU homepage for 24 hours and be automatically entered into their Design of the Month Contest on Facebook!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Carvalho-alvarinho / English Oak Card

Na sequência do post anterior, aqui fica mais um cartão feito recentemente para o GCU a partir de uma das minhas ilustrações botânicas favoritas, de um carvalho-alvarinho (Quercus robur). Este cartão está disponível em duas versões (Parabéns e Dia da Árvore).
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Following my previous post, here is another recent card made for GCU using one of my favourite botanical illustrations of an English Oak (Quercus robur). This card is available in two different versions (Happy Birthday and Happy Arbor Day).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cartão novo / New Card

Tenho mais um cartão à venda no GCU (Greeting Card Universe). Fi-lo utilizando uma série de ilustrações individuais de plantas da nossa flora. Não me tinha dado conta que as aprovações estavam a demorar tanto tempo ultimamente por isso o tema da Páscoa já está desactualizado. Vendo as coisas pelo lado positivo, é trabalho adiantado para o ano que vem!
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I have a new card on sale at GCU (Greeting Card Universe). I made it using a series of individual illustrations of plants native to Portugal. I wasn't aware card approvals were taking so long these days, so the Easter subject is now outdated, but, well, it's work in advance for next year!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Jacinto-das-searas / Tassel Hyacinth

Os jacintos-das-searas (Muscari comosum) estão agora em flor. É uma planta curiosa, com o seu tufo de flores estéreis violetas, a lembrar uma coroa, sobre as flores férteis, localizadas mais abaixo. São plantas bolbosas, e não crescem em maciços compactos como o rosmaninho. Pelo contrário, encontramo-los dispersos, aqui e ali, ao longo de caminhos pedregosos ou campos abertos (olivais, vinhas, etc.). Esta foi desenhada no campo, com caneta preta à prova de água e aguarelas.

Tassel hyacinths are now blooming. I've always found this plant a very curious one, with its tuft of violet sterile flowers over the fertile ones down below. They grow from bulbs and do not occur in tight patches like lavender, but instead we spot one here and there along rocky paths and near open fields. This one was drawn on site, using a black waterproof pen and watercolours.